Neighbor Meets Uber Driver Who Lives in Bernal Heights, Worries About Rent

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Neighbor Jen lives in the La Lengua Autonomous Zone, and she shares this story about how she recently met another neighbor who drives for Uber to make ends meet:

The Uber driver who picked me up today turned out to be my neighbor. He lives literally 3 doors down from me on Mission and has lived there for nearly 35 years. I’d never met him before today, but he told me he pays $900 for a 3-bedroom apartment thanks to rent-control. However, the building just next to him sold, so he is nervous he will be pushed out by “Silicon Valley guy” who is buying a lot of properties on Mission St.

I had an amazing ride with him, and got to hear about how he put 3 kids through college (and good schools too) and worked 16-hour days at a bank downtown and now drives an Uber a few hours a day because it isn’t “trabajo duro;” it’s fun for him and he only drives in Bernal/Noe/Mission. Even if he gets a fare that takes him downtown (like I did) he just turns around and heads back to the hood because that’s where he likes to drive.

Who knew Uber, or all companies, would help me meet my neighbor? I’ll be looking for him on the street to say hello, or snag a ride, and am glad to know that there still are *some* rent-controlled units around, especially on a block where every other storefront has turned over in the past year. For context, the people on the floor below me are paying $4300/month for a 1000sqft 3bed 2bath.

Yours in real estate tales,

Neighbor Jen down in La Lengua

Illustration: Bernalwood

RIP Bernice Van Eckhardt, 99, Elsie Neighbor and Expert Practitioner of the San Francisco High Life

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Neighbor Bernice Van Eckhardt lived on Cortland at Elsie for 40+ years. She died on January 11, just a few months short of her 100th birthday.

Neighbor Bernice moved to Bernal in 1972, when she was in her 60s. By the time she settled down in a former farmhouse here, she had already spent the previous 40 years living the high-life in San Francisco, most notably in the secret penthouse apartment hidden atop the fabulous Phelan Building on Market Street at O’Farrell downtown. (More on that in a moment.)

Because Neighbor Bernice lived on the corner of Elsie, and because the close-knit residents of Elsie near Cortland take great pride in calling themselves the “Best Block in Bernal,” Elsie-ians naturally embraced Neighbor Bernise as a neighborhood institution. The photo all the way up top above shows Neighbor Bernice at center stage during the fabulous Elsie Street Block Party last September.

Elsie Neighbor Michael Nolan wrote this wonderful bio and obituary for her:

Bernice Margaret Menasco Van Eckhardt
Born June 21, 1915
Died January 11, 2015

She was born in 1915 in Oregon in a town called Wendling, outside of Eugene. She died at her home in San Francisco in 2015, about five months short of her 100th birthday.

Her maiden name was Menasco. Her parents were Henry Clay and Mattie Menasco from Texas and Oklahoma respectively. In the 1920 Census when they lived in Portland, Henry was a street car conductor. On Jan. 15, 1920 when the census was taken of their family, Henry was 38, Mattie was 36, Lois was 15 and Bernice was 4 1/2.

Bernice came to San Francisco at age 22, about 1937. She lived on or near Stanyan Street and then Danvers Street. Her first marriage ended after 4 1/2 years. Then she met Frank Van Eckhardt, 20 years her senior, at a wedding. He was an advertising photographer for The Emporium. They
moved into her apartment at that time at Clement & 5th. They were married at the Presbyterian Church on Van Ness. Bernice worked as a hat check girl at the Palace Hotel.

About 1955, they moved into the Phelan Building Penthouse and lived there for 25 years. Various articles were written about their lovely abode, its outdoor garden and great views of the City. The Penthouse was built by Senator Phelan as a place where he could entertain visiting dignataries. It may have been the Fire Department that finally made the Van Eckhardts move because there was no fire escape.

Frank was born in Holland and came from a prominent family. One of his uncles was the Governor of Borneo when that nation was a Dutch possession.

Bernice bought her home on Cortland, at the corner of Elsie, in Bernal Heights in 1972.

Here’s a photo of Neighbor Bernice and her husband Frank Van Eckhardt enjoying the view from their bungalow penthouse atop the Phelan Building during the 1950s:

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Here’s a shot of the Van Eckhardts living large inside the small penthouse, which they shared with four cats, a Collie, five parakeets, two goldfish, and a large turtle:

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In 1963, The San Francisco Examiner did a glamorous article and photo spread (PDF) about the couple’s schwanky pad. The article notes that closet and kitchen space was extremely limited, but the couple enjoyed a 1200 square-foot outdoor garden on the deck that Bernice maintained. That’s Bernice, in the photo on the left side:

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The Examimer’s style critics were impressed with Neighbor Bernice’s proto-Ikea interior design acumen:

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In 2010,  a few decades after Neighbor Bernice settled into her Bernal Heights low-rise, Neighbor Michael Nolan took her to visit the Phelan Building penthouse for the first time since the 1970s:

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Neighbor Bernice was clearly an expert at the fine art of living, and her decision to settle down in a Bernal Heights farm house was just the final chapter in a lifetime spent living well.

Her awesome neighbors on Elsie already miss her…

PHOTOS: Block party and 2010 photos courtesy of Michael Nolan and Elsie Street Neighbors. Penthouse photos via this and this, with special thanks to Marcin Wichary.

Unholy “Donut Turducken” Created by Clever Bernal Heights Foodie

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There’s a new food fetish that’s attracting attention on the social media Interwebs, and it is deeply infused with Bernal Heights DNA. The Huffington Post captured the buzz:

The mention of a Thanksgiving turducken — you know, the turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken — will get mixed responses. Generally, avid carnivores are all for it; vegetarians are rightfully disgusted. But we’ve recently come across another type of turducken that we think everyone will be on board with: a donut turducken.

There’s no poultry of any kind to be found in this donut creation. The name was bestowed upon this breakfast pastry because it uses the same philosophy of the more traditional turducken: stuffing delicious things into already delicious things. It was made in the test kitchen of CHOW and we can’t stop thinking about it.

Consider how great chocolate frosted donuts are. Then top that with sprinkles and fill it with custard. The donut turducken takes this already truly stellar donut and stuffs it with an entire fried apple fritter. Amazing, we know.

If you click through to that Chow article mentioned above, you’ll find this little bit of backstory:

Last week at CHOW, Kim Laidlaw was testing donut recipes […] As she was finishing up, she did something monstrous: She wrapped an apple fritter in a custard-filled donut, then glazed it with chocolate and paved it with sprinkles as subversively menacing as clownface. We spent—oh—10 minutes trying to think of a name monumental enough to describe a thing so weighted with desires of the id. Nothing seemed as right as referencing that other fantasy of conflated wants, the turducken. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the turducken of donuts, a cream-filled, double-fried, chocolate-glazed vector of desire.

It’s insane! It’s creative! It looks delicious! Those are all things we associate with Bernal Heights, so it should come as no surprise that the diabolical inventor of the turducken of donuts is Bernal recipe guru and author Kim Laidlaw, who lives on the south side of Folsom near the Alemany Farmer’s Market.

And someday, when you see long lines of skinny-jeaned hipsters queuing in long lines to sample the Turducken of Donuts, you will know that it was born of Bernal Heights.

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PHOTOS: Turducken of Donuts by Chow. Kim Laidlaw and daughter via Kim Laidlaw

Chefs from Hillside Supper Club Join Zagat’s “30 Under 30″ List

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Emerging celebrity chef alert!

Chefs Tony Ferrari and Jonathan Sutton from Hillside Supper Club on Precita Park were just named to  Zagat’s “30 Under 30″ list for San Francisco:

Former Johnson & Wales classmates Ferrari and Sutton collectively toiled away for years at fine-dining spots like Acquerello, Michael Mina and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s J&G before realizing their restaurant dream the 2.0 way, by way of pop-ups and a Kickstarter campaign. “The transition from being a cook, to running a pop-up, to opening your own restaurant is like learning how to crawl before you walk”, explains Sutton, who along with his partner breaks the mold of the typical millennial chef. “Chefs our age [24 at the time] are really just beginning their career and have no idea even where to start with opening a place, let alone cooking meat to the correct temperature,” points out Ferrari. Not to mention find money in a city as expensive and competitive as San Francisco. Two and a half years later, HSC, built on the principle of simplicity, sustainability and camaraderie, has become an integral part of the emerging Bernal dining scene, and the guys are eyeing to open a second restaurant, providing the right situation arises.

A second restaurant?! Whaaat??  More dish on Team HSC from Zagat right here.

PHOTO: Tony Ferrari and Jonathan Sutton via Zagats

This Is What It Looked Like at Fiesta on the Hill When Bernal Neighbors Discovered Their Inner Race Car Drivers

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Sunday’s Fiesta on the Hill was rather exceptionally fantabulous.

For 2014, Bernal’s traditional street fair on Cortland got a thoughtful makeover, with a strong emphasis on local character and creativity. The generic street fair vendors and beleaguered farm animals were gone, and in their place Fiesta 2014 gave our neighborhood fest a more homespun feel, with smiling goats, and historic surrealist Doggie Diner Heads, and happy parents steering happy children on mechanized ponies by remote control:

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It was a Main Street USA celebration of 21st century urbanism, and the crowds on Cortland were bustling:

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People looked like they were having a good time. There was even dancing in the streets. REPEAT: Confirmed dancing in the streets!

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Truth be told, however, your Bernalwood editor was unable to make his usual quasi-journalistic rounds at Fiesta on the Hill, because as part of this new 2014 emphasis on local flavor, I was recruited to babysit the two mutant race cars operated by the Bernal Dads Race Team.

So for most of the day, I was parked on Cortland, right in front of Andi’s Market.

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Playing chaperone for America’s Most Badass Volvo Station Wagon and a Alfa Romeo disguised as a cookie was a hindrance to my wanderings. But it turned out to be a great way to meet a lot of awesome Bernal neighbors.

In particular, it was fun to watch Bernalese of all ages as they sat in the Volvo and visualized the adrenalin-fueled excitement of driving the car in wheel-to-wheel combat on a race track.

Here are some of the dashing future racers I met:

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Thanks to everyone who made Fiesta on the Hill 2014 so much fun. Bravo, stay sexy, and can’t wait until 2015.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

On a Road Trip Around the World, French Family Parks on Bernal Hill

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Large vehicles modified for mobile habitation tend to attract lots of attention when they’re parked on Bernal Hill. Last weekend your Bernalwood editor paid particular attention to a very large vehicle parked on Bernal Hill that was very clearly intended for mobile habitation.

But this was no ordinary house on wheels. It was a giant-ass overland truck, equipped with four-wheel-drive and substantial cross-country modifications. Specifically, it was what’s called an expedition vehicle — the kind of thing you drive when you’re doing a road trip, say, from Morocco to India. It even had French license plates:

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So stylish. And so clever! Our Municipal Transportation Agency does not yet have an extradition treaty with the government of France, so French license plates are a handy accessory to avoid paying San Francisco parking fines. But we digress…

The graphic on the side of the truck pointed us toward the  Martin autour du monde website:

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That’s where we began to unravel why this apocalypse-ready intercontinental French RV was parked on the top of Bernal Hill. The introduction video provided a mission statement (in French):

A family. A house on wheels. Five years. Five continents. The world is theirs. In search of exceptional places, they cross deserts, oceans, lakes, and towns. On all their routes, they stay close to the people.

Well, at least that’s what I think it said — my French is a little rusty. The basic idea seems to be a kind of modern-day Swiss Family Robinson, only with a French family, a badass RV, an environmental education mission, and a video production contract.

Anyway, Bernalwood also found photos of the truck that’s parked on Bernal Hill, parked in some other rather exotic places. Like this:

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And this:

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At the very least, our new French neighbors are quite good at scenic parking. It was time to welcome them to Bernal Heights.

Bernalwood knocked politely on the side of the truck. Frederic Cébron opened the door, and welcomed us inside, where we met his wife Laure, their son Martin, age 9, and daughter Chine, age 6. The interior of the vehicle looked compact, modern, and efficient, like one of those tiny IKEA display apartments they set up inside the stores.

In the back, Martin and Chine were laughing and playing:

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Laure was making some snacks.

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Frederic said the family is in year four of their five-year tour. Along the way, they’ve been documenting innovative ways people are practicing good ecology and sustainable living. They came to San Francisco to visit Recology, our globally fashionable, zero waste-aspiring trash processing facility, as well as several other waste management and recycling initiatives in the Bay Area.

Frederic explained that the family’s journey began with a comprehensive tour of South America. Then they shipped the truck back to Europe, and drove it from Turkey to Tibet via Iran and India. From there it was off to Mongolia, then down to Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia. In between they make videos like this:

There was a hop to Japan, and an arrival in North America at Montreal. From there they drove to Alaska, down to Vancouver, and eventually to Bernal Heights.

Bernalwood encouraged Frederic to call ahead next time they decide to visit Bernal Heights, so we can  arrange a more proper welcome.

As things stand, Frederic said they had a nice stay here, that they’ve enjoyed their view of the I-280 Spaghetti Bowl, and that that only one Bernal neighbor warned the Cébron family that their planet-traversing home on wheels had been parked on Bernal Hill for more than the legal maximum of 72 hours. He also spoke very highly of the neighborly hospitality the family had received when they were parked in Teheran.

The Cébrons are overlanding to San Diego next. After that, they drive into Mexico and around much of Central America, before bringing their five-year journey to an end in Panama.

Against that backdrop, Bernal Heights might not be the most exotic place the family has been. But it may well be one of the most glamorous. Bon voyage, Frederic, Laure, Martin, and Chine!

PHOTOS: Cébrons in Bernal Heights, by Telstar Logistics

Bernal Celebrity Blogger Interviews Bernal Celebrity Music Impresario

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Here’s some hot hot hot Bernal celebrity-on-celebrity action action action!

You did know that David Pescovitz, celebrity blogger with the intergalactically famous BoingBoing blog, lives in Bernal Heights, right? Well, it’s true. He does.

And you already know that local music meta-star Jordan Kurland lives in Bernal Heights, too? It’s true. He does. Neighbor Jordan is the creative force behind many of San Francisco’s much-beloved music events, including NoisePop and this weekend’s gigantic  Treasure Island Music Festival. His Zeitgeist Artist Management also manages bands like Best Coast, Bob Mould, The New Pornographers, Rogue Wave, She & Him, and Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.

Because they are neighbors, Neighbor David and Neighbor Jordan have become friends. This week, David interviewed Jordan to get an insider’s perspective on the state of the music biz. A local-flavored excerpt:

[Neighbor David]: As a manager, it seems like you’d be living in Los Angeles or New York City. But yet you came to SF and never left. Why?

[Neighbor Jordan]:I moved to San Francisco in 1995 for a job. I was nearly a year out of college and knew that I wanted to try to be a manager. I was living in Los Angeles and answering phones for the performance rights organization, ASCAP. It was the typical entry level music industry job and not easy to land. I went on four interviews before I was hired. If I had stayed on that path I would have answered phones for a year or so, then become an assistant, and then, eventually, a membership director. All of which would have been cool, it’s just that I knew based on my experience interning for a few different companies during college, that I wanted to try to be an artist manager. There was an amazing opportunity up in San Francisco to work for a company called David Lefkowtiz/Figurehead management. The roster was Primus, the Melvins, Charlie Hunter and a few other acts. I spent four years there, learned a ton, and began managing the acts that became the first iteration of my management roster. It was also during my time there that I met Kevin Arnold and began working alongside him on Noise Pop. Kevin founded Noise Pop in 1993 and the first festival I worked on with him was 1998.

I started my management company, Zeitgeist, in 1999 which was the same year the music and technology were beginning to converge. It was the year that MP3.com, eMusic and Napster, to name a few, started to make waves. It wasn’t good news for the music industry but it did justify my existence up here. All of a sudden I had a competitive edge by living in the Bay Area.

The reason that I never left San Francisco once I arrived is simple: I adore this place.

You’re active in the city with the music festivals, investments in numerous restaurants, and donating your time to 826 Valencia, Stern Grove Festival, and other arts and culture organizations. As you know, SF is experiencing its own culture war right now. Where do you stand and what can be done in your opinion?

To be clear, I’m not one of those people that rails against the tech industry. To the contrary, I think it’s pretty incredible to live in the heart of where these innovations which are being dreamed up and born. It’s not a coincidence that a creative, intellectual and way left-of-center city like San Francisco attracted the entrepreneurs that built these companies. With all that said, the city needs to do more to protect its creative community. A lot more. The Bay Area is incredibly expensive which does not bode well for an upstart musician or artist. I know some folks in the private sector that are starting to help but the city, as far as I can tell, has only made cosmetic offerings at best. The musical cultural history is so, so rich here: Summer of Love, Bill Graham, the Grateful Dead, the jazz scene of the 50s and 60s, the Dead Kennedys, Journey, Metallica … it goes on and on. But San Francisco does not do much in the way of supporting musicians and visual artists and film makers. And because it’s prohibitively expensive to live here fledgling artists are moving to Los Angeles or Portland where it’s cheaper and there’s a stronger, more inspiring creative community. Which leads the established artists who can now afford to live in the Bay Area to leave because they don’t have a strong community around them. I don’t pretend to know of a simple solution but it is clear to me that the city should be attacking the issue with much more urgency.

Read the rest of the interview here, and if you’re headed to Treasure Island this weekend, give Neighbor Jordan the secret Bernal Heights hand signal.

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